Last week marked the beginning of a month-long, 10-stop East Coast tour for Oceana’s climate team. Over the next few weeks, our organizing team will be working with local organizations to host panel discussions on the hazards of seismic blasting in the Atlantic Ocean—a dangerous pre-cursor to offshore drilling along the East Coast, which will have devastating impacts on marine wildlife, fisheries and coastal economies. We kicked off our public forum series last Monday at Monmouth University with New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr.
Oceana worked with Clean Ocean Action, Sandy Hook Sea Life Foundation and Sierra Club New Jersey to host the event. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. made opening remarks, and the panel discussion was moderated by Tony MacDonald, Director of Monmouth’s Urban Coast Institute. The panel of speakers included Oceana’s own Nancy Sopko, Clean Ocean Action’s Executive Director Cindy Zipf and Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Specialist, Jessica Coakley. Congressman Pallone, a true ocean champion, called the forum “an important opportunity to build awareness about seismic airgun testing, drilling, and the harm these practices cause to marine life, the ocean environment and coastal communities.”
After showing a short video, Oceana’s Advocate Nancy Sopko described the process of seismic airgun testing: a large ship tows an airgun up and down the coast; that airgun then blasts compressed air down toward the seafloor, which needs to be loud enough to reach oil and gas deposits miles below the surface. These airgun blasts are emitted every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks on end. The Department of Interior is currently considering a proposal to allow seismic airgun testing in an area off the East Coast—from Cape May to Florida—that is TWICE the size of California. This will effectively turn the entirety of the East Coast (which is off limits to offshore drilling until at least 2017) into a blast zone.
Jessica Coakley emphasized the effects of seismic testing on fish and bottom-dwelling animals, such as scallops and surf clams. Mid-Atlantic states boast a $535 million annual commercial seafood industry, which could be in jeopardy if this proposal goes through. Cindy Zipf, a long-time Jersey resident, stated that “the Jersey Shore has suffered in the past from oil spills and pollution. We know from experience the best way to a strong vibrant economy is with a clean healthy ocean. Blasting the eardrums of every living creature in the Atlantic Ocean in the pursuit of oil and gas is reckless and ignorant. The federal government should support actions that protect a sustainable future, not help fill the pockets of Big Oil.”
After a vibrant question and answer session, we closed off the night by asking everyone in attendance to write a hand-written letter to President Obama. At the close of the tour, we’ll be delivering these letters to the Administration, along with all the press we are getting on the issue. (Check out this article in USA Today!)
We’ve already delivered more than 100,000 petition signatures opposing seismic airguns to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Director Tommy Beaudreau, but we’re not letting up any time soon!
Because we know that we can stop offshore drilling on the East Coast before it starts AND save 138,000 whales and dolphins. Next stop- Jacksonville, Florida!
For pictures of the event click here.
For more information about Oceana’s efforts to Stop Seismic Airguns, please visit www.oceana.org/seismic.